Walking is the best form of exercise – Medical expert

According to experts, regular physical exercise can improve the well-being of individuals. It delivers oxygen and nutrients to the body tissues and makes the cardiovascular system work more efficiently.
In this interview with The Voice Correspondent, ESTHER AKAA, the Medical Director of Shalom Hospital Lafia, Dr Thomas Affi spoke on the benefits of regular exercise and more.

Can you differentiate between physical activity and fitness?
Health is a state of being free from illness or injury. It is also the ability to carry out your social functions without inhibition. That you can do what you are doing, you can go to work, you can sleep, wake up and move around means you are healthy. It also means you can carry out your social functions without hindrance.
Physical activity simply means the movement of the body that uses energy. Walking, gardening, climbing the stairs, playing soccer, or dancing the night away is all good examples of being active.
But fitness is the ability to do more than your body can do. That means you can run a distant and still breathe well. We have levels of fitness for instance, somebody may be fit to climb a stair case but not fit to run 100 yards .It depends on what the purpose is all about. Are you fit to run for Olympics or you can go round the stadium 10 times. So, fitness refers to levels or ability to carry out physical activities or specified physical activity. Unless you do some measurements, somebody may look healthy but when you check him or her, they may have some diseases that have not been diagnosed.
Health is the ability to carry out your normal functions on a daily basis but fitness is the ability to carry out some certain things outside your normal functions.

What are the benefits of regular exercise or participation in sporting activities?
Exercise and regular activities have almost everything to do with one’s health. You can’t be truly healthy without some forms of exercise. There are a lot of benefits for engaging in exercises as it helps us to carry out our normal functions whether it’s at home or at work. The benefits can be in terms of one’s cardiovascular memory problem, nervous system, eyes, stress level and so on. So exercises affect virtually all aspects of our health. Thus, the benefits of exercises are that it improves sexual performances; It protects against some forms of cancer like cancer of the breast in women. It also lowers high blood pressure so that issues of glaucuma would be reduced. When it comes to getting heart attack, it helps in reducing, lowering the risk of heart problems; the problem of stroke is also eliminated and to an extent helps individuals to attain old age.
Exercising add years to your life so that you can perform very well in your old age. And then often the issue of mental health, exercise prevents depression and can treat depression better than drugs. Also it maintains weight and reduces the risks of becoming obesed.

How much exercise does an individual need to gain all these benefits?
People use to think that you have to run marathon races before you can gain all these benefits but it is not true. In fact, if you exercise too much it becomes counter-productive. So you need to exercise just for 30 minutes maximum and 15 minutes minimum. Exercise is not the amount, but the frequency like three to five times in a week. One important thing is that after exercise you don’t sit in one place for too long. You can stand up and walk for a least 5 minutes and for everyone hour you must get up and exercise. I have a box that we have constructed; it is called “Affi dumb “where you keep it in your office and climb on it and climb down for every 5 minutes in one hour. But too much of exercise is stress and it’s counter-productive.

As a health Professional, what do you think should be done to encourage physical fitness?
Well, it’s an individual thing, I always tell my patients that your health is in your hands. We don’t need to wait for the government to come and do it for us. The public should know that their health is in their hands. Your health is not in the hands of the doctors or nurses but it’s in our hands and it comes with knowledge because what you don’t know might kill you. So you have to do some exercise which depends on your convenient. Some prefer to do jogging, some prefer to do it walking, swimming, and cycling and so on. Health professionals have a lot to do in this regard. They need to encourage their patients on how to keep fit. This is where the government needs to come in. I have been trying to get the government set up a health promotion department at the ministry of health that will specifically address these issues because prevention is better than cure and lack of knowing is why we die. Most people don’t know about it for example, the issue of sitting in one place, many people don’t know that sitting in one place for too long is bad. And these things are responsible for vast number of problems we face today. We need to teach these things in schools. Family life education should be taught in schools as a subject.

How can you assess sport development in Nasarawa State?
There is a saying that if you go to a city and don’t see people jogging on the street, that city is not civilised. So the number of people that go on the street in the morning tells you that the people are concerned about their health and we are beginning to see people in the morning on the streets in the state. The awareness is catching up but the government needs to do more by initiating programmes that will encourage people to come out for exercises especially in the morning and after work. The government has done much in this regard but there is room for improvement. It is not the physical structures that encourage people to go for exercise but it is the individual efforts. We don’t need much to do exercise, people think they have to buy costly shoes, attires and equipment before they can go out for exercise but you just need your leg and wrist watch to enable you check your distance. We don’t want to give people this idea that the government has to set up a gym before people can go out and exercise. But if we wait until government sets up sports equipment’s before we go out, we will be missing out. So even a market woman can exercise and be fit without worrying about facilities.

What is the best form of exercise?
It is walking; just walk, take one step after another. Walking is the best form of exercise especially if you have sexual problems. We need about 10,000 steps everyday for good health and we have speedometers that can measure the distance covered. Also some wrist watches can tell the number of steps one has taken. You do not need any vigorous exercise to keep fit, just walk 10 miles every day.

What is your general advice to the public?
My general advice to people is that they should go out and walk.

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